Tag: testing results

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

THERE has been plenty of debate when talking about potential AFL prospects pertaining to the differences between judging ‘athletes’ against ‘pure footballers’. There is an argument that fitness testing should be taken with a grain of salt and that the eye test is most important, but when it comes to players being drafted – especially in the first round – prospects are often at the pointy end in at least one fitness test.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the main fitness tests conducted during preseason and at the AFL Draft Combine, they are as follows:

  • Agility Test
  • 20m Sprint
  • Standing and Running Vertical Leap
  • Yo-Yo Test
  • 2km Time Trial

Last year’s number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan excelled in the 20m sprint and vertical leap tests, with his on-field speed off the mark and jump at the ball highlighting just why he excelled at those tests. The combine, if anything, gives reassurance that those traits are indeed elite and will help try and separate talents like Ugle-Hagan from any other key forwards in that year’s crop. Athleticism is very important in modern football, with players quicker and bigger than what most talented youngsters are used to at the development levels. One club which has seemingly identified this in modern times is the fast-rising Essendon Football Club.

Since 2014, Essendon seems to have had a clear strategy with the types of players they have looked at with their high picks. Below is a list of the Bombers’ top 40 selections since 2014 and which tests those players excelled at. In a lot of cases, they were top 10 in those tests at the end-of-year combine.

2014:

Pick 17 – Jayden Laverde
(Didn’t test but athleticism was a highlight of his game)

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

Pick 6 – Aaron Francis
(Didn’t test but like Laverde, athleticism was a highlight in games)

Pick 29 – Alex Morgan (Since delisted)
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

Pick 30 – Harrison Jones
Vertical Leap, Yo-Yo, 20m Sprint

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

There is one big outlier here and that’s one of this year’s Brownlow contenders in Darcy Parish, who was only average in test results during his draft year. This could be seen as the biggest clue as to why athletic testing shouldn’t be so important, but it can also be argued that one of the main reasons for Parish’s form is due to improving his running capacity to an elite level.

Even their most recent mid-season selection, Sam Durham tested well for vertical leap and endurance, so its no surprise at least in Essendon’s case that athletic traits are a huge influence in whether the player gets taken. The current favourite for the Rising Star, Nik Cox has taken the competition by storm with his mix of athleticism and height, with that height another factor in the early Essendon selections. It was a matter of time before Cox got his nomination for the Rising Star award and in retrospect, we should have all seen his selection by Essendon coming considering all the traits he possesses are key indicators in the Bombers’ recent draft strategy.

Using this history, we can even try to narrow down the possible field of players that Essendon will look at with its first round pick in 2021. A trio of Sandringham Dragons instantly come to mind with Campbell Chesser, Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan. All three players tested well for the 20m sprint and vertical leap during preseason, highlighting their power and athleticism. With all measuring at over 185cm, they even fill a midfield need for the Bombers. They have another prospect right under their noses in Josh Goater who made his Essendon VFL debut not long ago and is an athletic beast. His speed and leap tests were all elite and at 190cm, he would be another Essendon style selection.

The modern footballer is taller, faster and can run all day, and it is getting harder and harder for pure footballers to make it at the top level. If young, pure footballers can start to develop athleticism in their game, even if it’s an elite endurance base, that’s at least a start in the right direction.

Height used to be a detractor for clubs but now with the likes of Caleb Daniel, Kysaiah Pickett, Brent Daniels and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, that is no longer the same obstacle for potential draftees as it used to be – though you also need to have that speed and class. If you are small and have the athletic traits and determination to make it as an AFL player, then you will be on the right track. If you are tall and have those traits, your chances of making an AFL list are even higher.

Fitness testing is an important tool, not just for clubs and recruiters, but also for up and coming players – especially those at the very early level. I’m hopeful coaches of junior football are able to set up some of these tests to help young players find their best traits, enhance them and embrace them. Understandably, it takes time, money and effort on their part and not every junior club or parent has that available. Programs such as Rookie Me, the official fitness testing partner of the AFL, allow junior athletes to experience professional environments at an early age, proving another handy head-start for budding footballers.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Top 10s: National Draft Combine testing – 20m sprint

AFL DRAFT combines have wrapped up around the nation, giving an insight into how each elite level hopeful stacks up athletically. For most prospects, it was a chance to showcase just how much they had improved since preseason, especially after a full season of football – albeit compromised. For the Victorians in action, they finally got to show their wares after a substantial amount of time away from the field, with a number of them registering results indicative of remarkably hard work in the meantime.

The 20-metre sprint is the test used to measure an athlete’s burst of speed, and often yields some of the most looked-at data from such testing events. Looking at the combined results from each state and region, the overall top 10 features six players who measure up at over 190cm, showcasing just how exciting some of these budding draftees are as prototypical, modern day athletes.

>> SCROLL to see the top 10 results

Six players who registered top 10 times are also already aligned to AFL clubs, headlined by Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) member and consensus number one prospect, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. Another NGA product, Reef McInnes (Collingwood) took full toll with a tailwind to notch a nation-wide fastest time of 2.78 seconds, remarkable considering his 193cm/86kg frame and the fact he is an inside midfielder. Standout Swans Academy member Braeden Campbell equalled Ugle-Hagan’s effort as both managed the equal-10th best time.

There also looms some real bolters in the pack, with the likes of Liam Kolar, Max Holmes, and Fraser Rosman all notching elite times of 2.90 seconds or better. Kolar and Rosman are athletic tall forwards who are quite raw but can compete aerially, while wingman Holmes is a national hurdles champion and the son of Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Lee Naylor. Essendon NGA hopeful Joshua Eyre was another surprise packet, dominating across the board and ranking eighth in this particular test.

Godfrey OkerenyangIsiah Winder, and Aiden Fyfe joined Campbell as the only non-Victorians to earn top 10 status, with West Australian Winder also the smallest player among them at 180cm. He is fresh off a season which saw him earn a senior berth at Peel Thunder, proving a classy user through midfield. Keen watchers may remember Okerenyang from the 2018 AFL Grand Final sprint, which he took out, while Fyfe is a wingman out of Gold Coast’s Academy.

Incredibly, none of the top 10 runners featured on the same list during preseason, though Campbell was among the best NSW/ACT sprinters at that time.

Top 10 times:

1. Reef McInnes (Oakleigh/Vic Metro) – 2.78 seconds
2. Max Holmes (Sandringham/Vic Metro) – 2.80
3. Godfrey Okerenyang (GWS Academy/Allies) – 2.86
4. Liam Kolar (Northern/Vic Metro) – 2.87
5. Isiah Winder (Peel Thunder/Western Australia) – 2.873
=6. Zavier Maher (Murray/Vic Country) – 2.89
=6. Seamus Mitchell (Bendigo/Vic Country) – 2.88
8. Joshua Eyre (Calder/Vic Metro) – 2.89
9. Aiden Fyfe (Gold Coast Academy/Allies) – 2.898
=10. Braeden Campbell (Sydney Academy/Allies) – 2.90
=10. Fraser Rosman (Sandringham/Vic Metro) – 2.90
=10. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh/Vic Country) – 2.90

Stay tuned for top 10 results from each of the remaining tests.

>> Power Rankings: November Update

Preseason testing:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

Featured Image: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan runs the 20-metre sprint | Credit: AFL Photos

AFL Draft Watch: Jackson Callow (Tasmania Devils/Allies)

IN the build up to football eventually returning, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state at Under 17 or Under 18s level in 2019. While plenty can change between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at the NAB League Preseason Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft Watch is Tasmania’s Jackson Callow, a powerful key forward who is not afraid to throw his weight around. The 193cm prospect was a mainstay in the Devils’ maiden full-time NAB League campaign, booting 24 goals in 14 games as his side’s focal point up forward. Callow also played a key role in North Launceston’s Tasmanian State League (TSL) premiership triumph, booting a game-high three goals in the decider.

After failing to break through for the 2019 National Championships, Callow seems a lock for the 2020 Allies Under 18 side and has fared well in his representative duties with Tasmania thus far. While he looks most comfortable inside forward 50, Callow can also pinch-hit in the ruck and was even tried in defence during the Under 17 All Stars showcase fixture. His physicality and unrivalled contested marking often draw multiple opponents, with the big-man hard to stop at full flight.

PLAYER PAGE:

Jackson Callow
North Launceston/Tasmania/Allies

DOB: June 11, 2002

Height: 193.6cm
Weight: 95.5kg

Position: Key Forward

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATS: 14 games | 13.6 disposals | 54% cont poss | 6 marks | 1.4 tackles | 2.6 inside 50s | 1.7 goals (24)

Strengths: Contested marking, aggression, strength, scoreboard impact
Improvements: Unknown versatility, goalkicking consistency

>> Marquee Matchup: Callow vs. Fleeton
>> Positional Analysis: Key Forwards

PRESEASON TESTING HIGHLIGHTS:

Standing Vertical Jump – 61cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L) – 63cm/64cm
Speed (20m) – 3.08 seconds
Agility – 9.00 seconds
Endurance – 20.5

>> FULL RESULTS:
Jumps
Speed
Agility
Endurance

2019 SCOUTING NOTES:

2019 Under 17 Futures All Star Game

By: Ed Pascoe

The strong bodied key position forward had a solid game, showing he didn’t just rely on his size to take marks to kick his goals as he gathered a loose ball and kicked a lovely snap goal in the second quarter. He was moved to defence in the second half and looked better as the game went on taking a nice intercept mark in the last quarter, Callow looks to be the leading Tasmanian prospect for the 2020 draft.

2019 Allies Under 18 Trails vs. Vic Country/Metro

By: Peter Williams

The key forward presented nicely at the football and while he did not kick a major himself, pushed up the ground and was often the link between half-forward and deep forward, creating chances for teammates. He showed a nice field kick and a high work rate to hit-up a midfield teammate then pushed back to win it again, and put it out to Matt Conroy leading out in the square. Shared some of the ruck load while up forward as well.

2019 NAB League Round 12 vs. Eastern

By: Michael Alvaro

Callow looked like having a huge game after he booted three goals within the first half-hour, but was clamped well after the main break with Eastern ensuring he would compete against two or three markers in the air. He started off by winning a ground ball against his direct opponent deep inside 50 before snapping the first goal of the game, following up with a huge pack mark and set shot goal to highlight a scintillating opening. He also created Will Peppin’s goal after booting his third, marking deep in the pocket and kicking well inboard.

His physicality ensured that direct opponents were more occupied with holding him that getting to the ball, and Callow’s work off the deck was very good for a player of his size. He would go on to show as much by turning his opponent twice in the third term but missing the shot, eventually being restricted well.

2019 NAB League Round 4 vs. Calder

By: Scott Dougan

Callow was kept fairly quiet in the first term but was able to bounce back in the second. He took some nice marks on the lead in the forward half and due to his sticky hands, he was able to hold the majority of them. Callow’s third term was just unbelievable, with the bottom-aged big man taking four contested marks and booting three goals. In the end, Callow was the difference between the two sides and is definitely a very exciting prospect to keep a close eye on in his draft year.

2019 NAB League Round 3 vs. NT Thunder

By: Alex Gibson

Callow could have had a really, really big day. He dominated the Thunder’s defence all game and finished with five goals, however if he kicked straight could’ve easily had seven or eight to his name. Callow did not once get out-marked and either took the grab himself or brought the ball to ground, which his small forwards appreciated. Callow was the go-to man for the Devils and the well-built key forward’s work rate was impressive – often providing a target well up the ground.

>> MORE TASMANIA DEVILS CONTENT

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Vic Metro:
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Jack Ginnivan
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Luke Edwards
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Western Australia:
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll

Allies:
Braeden Campbell
Oliver Davis

Marquee Matchups: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan vs. Nikolas Cox

DESPITE remaining in the unknown of football’s temporary absence, Draft Central is set to ramp up its draft analysis with another new prospect-focussed series, Marquee Matchups. We take a look at some of the high-end head-to-head battles which look likely to take place should the class of 2020 take the field, comparing pairs of draft hopefuls to help preview who may come out on top.

The series’ first edition features two of the most promising key position players available in NAB Leaguers Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Nikolas Cox. A Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, Oakleigh’s Ugle-Hagan originally hails from Warrnambool, but boards at Scotch College in the Chargers’ region. While he has been utilised in defence while playing school football, the 18-year-old is more prominently known for his work as a high-marking key forward.

His potential foe, Cox is one of two Northern Knights products in this year’s Vic Metro Hub, and takes on the co-captaincy responsibility for his region in 2020. The 199cm utility has already won plaudits for his remarkable athletic traits and clean hands at all levels, with versatility another key string to his bow. Having played on a wing and as a key forward at times last year, Cox will look to secure a spot a centre half-back in his top-age season.

The pair’s similarly brilliant athleticism, aerial threat, and versatility make them an ideal match-up should they meet during the NAB League, national carnival, or beyond, while their raw talents more than account for the question of marquee status. With the contest teased as the respective talents went toe-to-toe in a preseason practice match, take a look at how the two compare statistically, athletically, and otherwise in our breakdown of their junior careers to date.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country), Key Forward
vs.
Nikolas Cox (Northern Knights/Vic Metro) Centre half-back/Utility

ATHLETIC PROFILES: 

Ugle-Hagan shone at the 2020 NAB League preseason testing day, returning elite numbers across every test to only elevate his claim as frontrunner to be taken first off the draft board. While it may seem like Cox lags in comparison, his jumping numbers were outstanding and endurance figures elite for a player who almost tips 200cm.

HEIGHT/WEIGHT:

Ugle-Hagan – 194.3cm/83.9kg
Cox – 199cm/82.1kg

SPEED (20m):

Ugle-Hagan – 2.95 seconds
Cox – 3.15 seconds

AGILITY:

Ugle-Hagan – 8.28 seconds
Cox – 8.78 seconds

ENDURANCE (Yo-yo):

Ugle-Hagan – 21.3
Cox – 21.1

VERTICAL JUMP:

Ugle-Hagan – 68cm
Cox – 52cm

RUNNING VERTICAL JUMP (R/L):

Ugle-Hagan – 84cm/93cm
Cox – 80cm/76cm

ON-FIELD PROFILES:

2019 NAB LEAGUE STATISTICS:

Ugle-Hagan – 9 games | 10 disposals (50 per cent contested) | 5.2 marks | 1.4 tackles | 1.7 inside 50s | 24 goals
Cox – 10 games | 12.5 disposals | 4.9 marks | 2 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1 rebound 50 | 9 goals

BEST GAME:

Ugle-Hagan – Prelim. Final vs. Sandringham; 12 disposals (11 kicks) | 9 marks | 4.2
Cox – Rd 15 vs. Bendigo; 12 disposals (10 kicks) | 6 marks | 2 inside 50s | 4.1

The differences in either player’s game come through in the key base statistics, with Ugle-Hagan’s dominance inside 50 shining through, and Cox’s ability to impact around the ground also evident. During Oakleigh’s premiership-winning campaign, Ugle-Hagan was delivered silver service from a stacked midfield, and often proved too quick on the lead for his direct opponent. The spearheads’s clean hands and set shot routine would do the rest, hence the terrific marks and goals-per-game ratios.

On the other hand, Cox edged his opponent in the disposal stakes, while also earning a tick for his versatility in averaging at least one breach of either arc per game. That is a product of Cox playing on each line throughout the year, with his season-high haul of four goals a highlight in his time up forward. Just as capable in the air, Cox’s average of almost five marks is also handy, showcasing his own ability to dominate the airways around the ground.

STRENGTHS:

Ugle-Hagan – Athleticism, overhead marking, acceleration on lead, game-breaker
Cox – Athleticism, versatility, vertical leap, high ceiling

The pair’s strengths line up well, with athleticism being the pillar of their games. That aside, Ugle-Hagan’s weapons lie in his forward craft; finding separation on the lead with his pace, and clunking strong marks hitting up at the ball. His high-marking ability makes him a constant threat inside 50, with the potential to break games open in elite patches of form.

Cox’s versatility is a strong asset, able to play virtually anywhere credit to his freakish skills on either side of his body, one-touch abilities in the air and below his knees, and again, that athleticism at 199cm. With all those features combined, it means Cox could be anything at the next level, with his potential as vast as anyone in the draft pool. Cox’s attitude and leadership also make for solid additions to his resume.

IMPROVEMENTS:

Ugle-Hagan – Field kicking
Cox – Raw, strength

One of Ugle-Hagan’s main areas for improvement, and the only one listed here is his field kicking. While he often has little trouble finding the goals, he can be wayward at times and it only becomes more evident when he gathers the ball further afield.

A prime example would be in his Under-17 Futures All Star performance, where he leapt beautifully at the ball and intercepted well at half-back, but would often have a hard time finding targets up the ground. If he can refine that area, versatility could become another strength with ball retention important for playing in defence.

Cox’s areas for improvement largely come in his overall development, with his raw talent set to be honed in more specific areas this season. While being an everyman is always helpful to coaches, building the strength to become a true key position prospect will be key to finding a spot at the next level.

KEY SCOUTING NOTES:

Ugle-Hagan – 2018 Under 16 National Championships vs. South Australia

By: Michael Alvaro

“Ugle-Hagan was one who didn’t do a whole lot throughout the course of the game, but always caught the eye when he was in possession. A few twists, turns, strong contested marks and clean pick ups were enough to suggest we may see a few more highlights from him in the future.”

Cox – 2019 NAB League Round 13 vs. Gippsland

By: Craig Byrnes

“This kid has some exciting attributes. “It was no surprise to see the 197cm bottom-ager play for Vic Metro at the Championships, the talent is there for all to see. “He is almost freakishly clean for his size at ground and possesses a left foot that any 180cm footballer would be proud of… he moves with a bit style and is a player that everyone should be keeping tabs on over the next 18 months.”

ACCOLADES:

Ugle-Hagan – 2018 Vic Country Under 16 representative, 2019 Australian Under 17 representative, 2019 NAB League premiership player, 2019 Under 17 All Stars selection
Cox – 2019 Australian Under 17 representative, 2019 Vic Metro representative, 2020 Northern Knights co-captain

For more on these two budding stars, including words from the men themselves, follow the links below.

Ugle-Hagan – Draft Watch
Cox – Draft Watch | Q&A